How to optimize nutrition for better surgical outcomes?

Orthopedic surgery can be a challenging and stressful experience for your patients. However, did you know that adequate nutrition before and after surgery can greatly impact your patients' outcomes? Nutrition is a low-risk, low-cost, and high-impact approach that can improve perioperative outcomes and patient experience. The post-operative stress that follows orthopedic surgery can be attenuated by proper nutrition, and nutrition can contribute to the prevention of many common complications and prepare your patients for a better recovery (1–3).

When it comes to eating right before and after surgery, it's not just about how much your patients eat, but also what they eat. We've created a healthy eating resource for your practice and patients.This guide will provide your patients with the information they need to help with an optimal recovery from orthopedic surgery.

Click here to see our healthy eating guide

Eating for Orthopedic Surgery Recovery

There are many foods that are beneficial, and some foods are detrimental to preparation for and recovery from surgery. Your patients should be encouraged to eat foods that are nutrient dense and minimally processed. Your patients should increase intakes of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, seafood, legumes, and lean protein sources like poultry. These foods are packed with nutrients that can help reduce the metabolic stress associated with surgery and provide the body with the additional nutrients it needs to recover.

The Healthy Plate Model is a simple yet effective way for your patients to prepare for and recover from orthopedic surgery. By following the model, patients can ensure they are getting the right balance of nutrients to support their bodies during the healing process. The model involves dividing the plate into three parts: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. By filling half the plate with fruits and vegetables, patients can increase their intake of essential vitamins and minerals that are essential for healing and overall health. Whole grains provide energy and essential nutrients, while lean protein helps repair damaged tissue and build muscle mass. By following the Healthy Plate Model, orthopedic patients can improve their chances of a successful surgery and faster recovery.


Dietary supplementation for Orthopedic surgery

Dietary supplements can be an important addition to a healthy diet that can help your patients meet the added nutritional needs associated with the stress of surgery. Protein supplementation and preoperative carbohydrate loading are two dietary strategies that can help orthopedic patients prepare for and recover from surgery(4,5). Protein is essential for the repair and growth of tissues, and by increasing protein intake before and after surgery, patients can support their bodies in the healing process (6). Preoperative carbohydrate loading can reduce metabolic stress caused by surgery and reduce postoperative tissue breakdown. The Ortho Nutrition Bundle is a complete 4 week nutrition program that provides your patients with the added nutrients their bodies need for a better recovery.


Food sources of important nutrients for surgery recovery

Eating a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods can be beneficial for orthopedic patients during the recovery process. Incorporating more protein in the diet can help repair and rebuild damaged tissues. Calcium and vitamin D are essential for maintaining strong bones, while iron and zinc play a crucial role in the production of red blood cells and healing of wounds. Vitamin C and vitamin E are powerful antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation and promote healing. Omega-3 fatty acids can help and polyphenols found in fruits and vegetables can also aid in reducing inflammation. Encouraging patients to eat a diet rich in these nutrients can help support their recovery and overall health. In our healthy eating guide we highlight foods that are a good source of these nutrients to help you patients get enough, even when they are not able to use certain vitamin and mineral supplements in the perioperative period.


Foods to limit when recovering from surgery

Just as it is important to get enough of nutrient dense foods, there are also certain foods your patients should avoid in the peri-operative period. Alcohol, processed foods, and sugary foods can all have a detrimental impact on surgical recovery (7–10).


To summarize:

Foods to include:

  • Vegetables & Fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Lean protein sources like poultry
  • Dietary supplements like the Ortho Nutrition Bundle

Foods to avoid:

  • Alcohol
  • Processed foods
  • Sugary foods


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  2. Liao C De, Wu YT, Tsauo JY, Chen PR, Tu YK, Chen HC, et al. Effects of Protein Supplementation Combined with Exercise Training on Muscle Mass and Function in Older Adults with Lower-Extremity Osteoarthritis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Randomized Trials. Nutrients [Internet]. 2020 Aug 1 [cited 2022 Jul 26];12(8):1–19. Available from:
  3. Nanri Y, Shibuya M, Fukushima K, Uchiyama K, Takahira N, Takaso M. Preoperative malnutrition is a risk factor for delayed recovery of mobilization after total hip arthroplasty. PM&R [Internet]. 2021 Dec 1 [cited 2022 Jul 26];13(12):1331–9. Available from:
  4. Hirsch KR, Wolfe RR, Ferrando AA. Pre- and Post-Surgical Nutrition for Preservation of Muscle Mass, Strength, and Functionality Following Orthopedic Surgery. Nutrients [Internet]. 2021 May 1 [cited 2022 Aug 18];13(5). Available from: /pmc/articles/PMC8156786/
  5. Burgess LC, Phillips SM, Wainwright TW. What Is the Role of Nutritional Supplements in Support of Total Hip Replacement and Total Knee Replacement Surgeries? A Systematic Review. Nutr 2018, Vol 10, Page 820 [Internet]. 2018 Jun 25 [cited 2022 Jul 26];10(7):820. Available from:
  6. Evans DC, Martindale RG, Kiraly LN, Jones CM. Nutrition Optimization Prior to Surgery. Nutr Clin Pract [Internet]. 2014 Feb 1 [cited 2022 Sep 13];29(1):10–21. Available from:
  7. Tønnesen H, Nielsen PR, Lauritzen JB, Møller AM. REVIEW ARTICLES Smoking and alcohol intervention before surgery: evidence for best practice. Br J Anaesth [Internet]. 2009 [cited 2023 Jan 24];102(3):297–306. Available from:
  8. Spies C, Tønnesen H, Andreasson S, Helander A, Conigrave K. Perioperative Morbidity and Mortality in Chronic Alcoholic Patients. 2001 [cited 2023 Jan 24]; Available from:
  9. Srour B, Kordahi MC, Bonazzi E, Deschasaux-Tanguy M, Touvier M, Chassaing B. Ultra-processed foods and human health: from epidemiological evidence to mechanistic insights. Lancet Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2022 Dec 1;7(12):1128–40.
  10. Ma X, Nan F, Liang H, Shu P, Fan X, Song X, et al. Excessive intake of sugar: An accomplice of inflammation. Front Immunol. 2022 Aug 31;13:4885.